More than 3,400 tech-nicians have gone through Toyota's body and paint training since it began eight years ago, and it seems to be paying off.
"We've seen dramatic improvement in consumer satisfaction index and financial performance," says John Saia, technical & body training development manager at the Toyota Training Center in Torrance, CA. "This training is an element of that. It doesn't stand alone."
It does, however, appear to be an important part of the equation.
Toyota has two 15,000-sq.-ft. Collision Repair and Refinishing Training Centers, the original in Torrance and a five-year-old facility in West Caldwell, NJ. Students work with the latest in body repair and painting equipment and procedures.
Students come from Toyota dealership body shops, independent body shops owned by Toyota dealer principals and independent body shops that do work for Toyota dealerships.
Mr. Saia says 65% to 70% of the students fall into the first two categories.
"All programs are designed for experienced professionals, but that experience can vary from two months to 30 years," says James Meyer, an instructor at the New Jersey center. "In most instances this is the students' first exposure to our reference materials and standards."
The goal of Toyota's technical training is customer satisfaction. But participants and dealers also benefit from specialized training.
Technicians contribute to their own career development by gaining expertise and performing higher-quality repairs more efficiently. Dealers increase revenue through increased productivity and customer satisfaction.
Toyota training officials boast that their courses are the most comprehensive body shop learning programs in the industry.
Students get intensive hands-on training with current Toyota and Lexus vehicles, enhanced knowledge of Toyota repair requirements and standards through the use of original equipment reference manuals, exposure to the latest in repair and refinish technology and certification.
"Students come away with a high level of quality expectation and professionalism, which is designed to benefit the customers in the long run," says Mr. Meyer. "It's the sharing of information between technicians and the personal experience of the instructors."
Each course spans two days and cost dealers $200 per student per program. There is a less extensive one-day course that is cost free.
The training centers' body shop courses are broken down into two levels of body repair and another two levels of painting classes.
The level 1 body course covers nonstructural repairs such as fenders and welded panels. The second-level body course teaches students about repairs and replacement of structural parts like frames and pillars.
The level 1 paint course covers color matching.
"That is one of the most underrated skills and it doesn't come that easy to most technicians," says Mr. Meyer.
The level 2 paint course includes five modules of advanced painting. The modules include learning to use high-transfer paint and drying equipment, and refinishing plastic bumper covers.
The one-day course covers paint repairs without using paint, such as buffing out scratches.
The Torrance facility is part of a larger service training complex and serves as the administrative home to Toyota's 12 regional service training programs. It conducts body shop courses six to seven days per month.
The five-year-old New Jersey facility conducts courses 12-13 days each month.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certifies the programs.
The centers also provide training for the two-year-old Toyota Certified Collision Center program, which certifies shops based on 10 standards and benchmarks.
They include equipment, training, environmental issues, operating characteristics, management practices and customer satisfaction.